|Subject:||RE: current development|
|Date:||Sat, 25 Jan 2020 10:15:43 +0000|
Here’s where I’ve got to - hope some of it proves helpful.
I contacted the USBGF and UKBGF asking for any feedback / interest and / or recommendations re generating fresh input from a new generation of coders (also posted similar messages out to a few C programming forums).
Not much joy here I’m afraid. I think the main issue at USBGF & UKBGF (ie for professional or competitive players / club players or serious hobbyists) is how far gnu has fallen behind XG now (unlike Snowie in its day, XG is generally affordable, available for mobiles & a new version with enhanced neural nets, compatible with Mac as well as Windows for the first time, is due for release at the end of the year).
But ‘free to all’ is still a significant USP for GNUBG especially among younger players (and in other parts of the world) & GNUBG is still cited up there as best of the rest on more general games forums. But as far as I can tell (in the UK at least) there are no clubs / tournaments / forums ringfenced for younger players so hard to know how to tap into this for feedback / enthusiasm / new coding talent.
I also contacted Chris Bray, one of the UK’s leading writers and promoters of the game. He’s the one who filled me in on the latest re XG. In his opinion:
‘…gnubg always had creditable neural net engines but never had a friendly User Interface which held it back considerably. I always felt it was written by technical programmers with little commercial awareness of how people would use it in the real world.’
I don’t share this view. I’m not a techie but I prefer the gnu layout / interface to XG’s. Having said that, I’m not a professional / competitive player either, which no doubt involves different priorities. Also I’ve been playing GNU for a long time & it probably took a few goes to get it set up the way I wanted (not sure that’s how big a deal that is, though).
In Bray’s opinion, ‘for gnubg to reemerge as a viable alternative to XG it will need an enhanced user interface and well-integrated app version for apple & android tablets / phones, as well as upgraded neural nets.’
In my opinion, a phone version would broaden appeal / access but the most critical issue is the neural nets. XG feels like a very different animal as an opponent - noticeably more opportunistic & aggressive, so some degree of congruence asap seems critical for gnubg to hold ground.
A final note from Chris:
‘FYI on my ToDo list is to talk to DeepMind about whether they intend to create an AlphaZero Backgammon.’
No update from him on this as yet. How about contacting them yourself to propose a gnubg / DeepMind collaboration?
Alternatively (or also):
In a subsequent email Chris mentioned ‘seeing an emerging group of highly-talented younger players, many of them Japanese.’
How about a Japanese collaboration / appeal for new coders? Language is clearly a barrier to this, but would it be possible to find some bilingual volunteers via the main gnu project to act as go-between? I don’t know how global the main project is, but backgammon is huge in parts of the Middle East so appeals here / Africa / India (where English is also more widely spoken) could also prove fruitful.
Finally, whilst I haven’t had any specific responses from UKBGF or USBGF to my general inquiries, it should be possible to put out a broadcast with either or both of these organisations (& via them to the local club networks) with specific announcements or requests for feedback eg for or from younger players / coders interested in collaboration. You may want to consider this. If it’s general player feedback you want, you probably need to frame some very specific questions. Oystein said: ‘First we need an idea, then we have to verify that idea, and then we have to set it into life, which might trigger a bigger VM or a cluster.’ As a non-techie I get the gist of this (and as a description of the work process find it intriguing!) but I’m in the dark as to what type of ideas you mean, or what kind of information you want.
There we are, then: my progress to date. Still happy to help, for what it’s worth, and I would love to be kept updated on any progress your end.
All best with that, & a Happy New Year to you all – thanks once again for all the fine work to date.
Sent from Mail for Windows 10
From: Øystein Schønning-Johansen <address@hidden>
Sent: Wednesday, December 11, 2019 5:48:59 PM
To: Sarah Payne <address@hidden>
Subject: Re: current development
Yes. Just give it some thought. If you post to the mailing list or to just me, you can decide yourself. I'm not the most active developer at the time, so maybe posting to the mailing list is a good idea.
On Wed, Dec 11, 2019 at 6:10 PM Sarah Payne <address@hidden> wrote:
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